Two pharmaceutical companies say they’re ready to begin vaccinating people before the end of December, if their vaccines are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. What does that mean?
The two companies have applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization of their Covid-19 vaccines immediately.
The FDA will meet on December 10 to discuss approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and a week later on December 17 for Moderna’s. But the vaccines may not be widely available to the public until at least April 2021, although the companies have started sending doses for potential distribution already. Last Friday, the first large shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived in Chicago and Moderna’s CEO believes they can begin vaccinations by December 21.
But hold onto your masks: we will have a very, very small fraction of the doses we need and, unless you are a healthcare worker or in a higher risk group, you probably won’t be able to get one for a while.
In the best case scenario, only 22.5 million people in the United States will be vaccinated by the end of the year—Moderna says it has 20 million doses and Pfizer 25 million, and both vaccines require two shots to work. Related Story Viral Video Simulates Being Hospitalized for COVID
Who gets the vaccine first?
Today, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for the CDC to recommend that healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities should get the vaccine first.
That decision follows the recommendation of experts, such as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Since there will be so few vaccines at first, the question is how to distribute with the maximum impact. The answer was to protect the healthcare workers who are likely to be exposed to the virus and essential to stop it as well as the residents of long-term care facilities where the virus has been merciless. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Nearly one in four coronavirus deaths is linked to a long-term care facility, and the surge of cases in the Midwest is largely due to cases among already vulnerable, older people in close-contact environments.
But a recommendation is just a recommendation, and states are not obligated to obey the CDC.
And just because healthcare workers are waved to the front of the line doesn’t mean they will take the vaccine, unless required by their employer. Only 63% of healthcare workers said they would get the vaccine, according to a CDC survey, reminiscent of the low swine flu vaccination rates for health workers back in 2009.
Even if everyone in this group wanted one, there wouldn’t be enough in December anyway: there are 21 million healthcare workers and 3 million residents of long-term care facilities, meaning it will be January before we have enough vaccines for this first group.
How many people need to get the vaccine for it to have an effect on the pandemic?
The very good news is that both vaccines appear to work very well—Moderna’s is 94.1% effective at preventing the disease and the Pfizer vaccine is 95%. And when people in the study did get the virus, Moderna’s was 100% effective at preventing severe disease.
The very bad news is that a vaccine is no good unless it is actually in people’s bodies, and the vaccine needs to be in a lot of people’s bodies.
Most experts say we need to reach 60 to 70 percent immunity to break coronavirus transmission, and at most, only 10% of the population has coronavirus antibodies right now (and who knows how long they last or who those people are).
This becomes a math problem: at the very least, a 95% effective vaccine needs to be given to 63% of the population to raise the immunity by 60 percent (0.95 times 0.63).
That’s about 207 million people. And don’t forget, they need two doses each. And we don’t yet know if people will need a seasonal booster like the flu shot.
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Source: Men’s Health